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Use Prints & Patterns to Look Skinny & Balance Your Body

read how to wear prints to look better

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

Whether you want to wear a bathing suit or a pantsuit, there are cool ways to camouflage the jiggly parts of your body with prints and patterns. Or, you can use patterns to draw people's attention away from your "problem" areas and towards your "best" areas.

read what kind of prints to wear to look thinner

Prints to Look Skinny

Wow. I hate those words I just wrote. There is no "problem" with your body. Your body is "what it is"... a "machine" to take you places. Your body is neither good nor bad. However, there are lots of fun ways to enhance your body... and I'm talking about clothes and fashion. I'll let everyone else harp endlessly about diet and exercise.

Note: If you came to this article from Pinterest, you might not see the photo that brought you here. That's because some of my pics were wiped out when I updated this website... bummer. So, I've put in a few new photos... groovy. (If you want to know where an old photo is from, contact me below.)

Hey World! I Wear Plus Sizes

As you may know, if you have been following my saga, I used to be fairly skinny. However, I had to take steroids for a medical issue (thyroid ablation) and the steroids caused me to gain about 50 pounds in a month, which isn't as bad as it sounds because I had lost 30 pounds the month before (from hyperthyroidism). All the doctors and nurses and other people who saw my body swell up (and my face turn into a pumpkin) said that the weight would disappear as soon as I stopped the meds. But, it didn’t.

Even if I eat only broccoli, my fat cells have morphed me into an eternal Poppin’ Fresh Dough Girl. And, now I wear plus sizes.

Bite me. I'm sure I taste delicious... hahaha.

I'm Pleasantly Plump

So, this is just the way my body is. Should I give up and wear muumuus and jogging suits everywhere I go? No frakking way. It’s bad enough being sixty, but being sixty and frumpy-dumpy… well, that's just unacceptable.

read what prints make you look thinner

Printed Dresses With Dark Backgrounds

And, now that every designer in the world is into prints, I have been thinking about all the ways we can use patterns to camouflage the less flattering areas of our bodies... and how we can use prints to divert other people's attention away from the parts of our bodies that don't fit into Madison Avenue's idea of perfection.

Camouflage is Good

Animals, both predator and prey, use camouflage. The military puts our soldiers in camouflage. There must be something to it.

Using Prints for Camouflage on a Plus Sized Body

So, I’ve been googling around on the internet trying to find good information about how we can camouflage problematic parts of our bodies.

One article tells plus-sized women to wear small prints. Another article says that plus-sized women should only wear large prints. And… well... you get the idea. Either no one really knows the answer... or else there's more than one right answer.

The dresses in the photo above are all good for camouflaging difficult areas... oh heck... for camouflaging the whole freaking area. I can explain this better using the example on the left. Whenever a floral pattern is placed here and there on a solid background, people see the flowers more than they see the background. It's like an optical illusion. People can't help it. And, that's good, because we can use this to our advantage.

Sometimes, a light colored background works as well as a dark background. It depends on the spacing of the print and the difference in values (light and dark) and things like that. However, most of the time, a dark background is going to make you look smaller because dark colors recede. You probably learned that in art class.

However, there are many great florals with light (or bright) backgrounds, so don't rule those out automatically. Take each print on a case-by-case basis. (Actually, I just took a closer look at the middle dress in the photo. The background is white not blue.)

read about plus size prints patterns on clothing

Plus Size Tops: Every Pattern is Different

On the other hand, you don't want to go too wild with zany prints. If you're the kind of chick who likes over-the-top prints, try to limit them to one or two small areas... or ask your granddaughter for an honest opinion.

When you love gorgeous patterns and beautiful colors, and you're larger than a size 10, it's always a balancing act. You don't want to wear a print that's too subdued because you'll look like a dowdy old frump. And, you don't want to blind people with an overly bright print that will stop traffic and cause your neighbors to get migraines.

I suppose you could wear only solids... but that's a bit depressing. (Oy. Growing old is not for sissies with no taste.)

Every Print or Pattern Has Different Pros & Cons

Yep, every print or pattern has its own camouflaging pros and cons. Fortunately, I’m an artist, so I will (try to) explain fashion the way I see it. However, I think that generalities can only go so far.

Each piece of clothing needs to BE PLACED on your own body... to know if that particular print will camouflage the area you want to hide or if that print will draw attention to the "flaw" that you want people to gloss over.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

read how to wear prints if you're fuller figured

Prints Can Camouflage OR Draw Attention

Is the Print a Focal Point or a Camouflage?

Sometimes, simple concepts about prints can be tricky. Both of the tops in the photo above take a print that has elements of camouflage and makes the camouflaging print into a focal point.

  • The White T-shirt: This design takes leopard, which is usually a camouflage, and makes your eye go right to the print. It specifically goes to the area where the yellow-green color meets the pinkish-orange section. This is a great top for a gal who wants to balance her big, pear-shaped hips.
  • The Black Top: The floral print on this top should work as camouflage, but it's a focal point. Well, your eye darts around checking out the flowers and butterflies... and if your eye is moving... that's what camouflage does... so this print does work like camouflage. However, the upper torso (shoulder, neckline, chest) is a strong focal point because the print contrasts so vividly with the large expanse of black. This is another great top for balancing a wide lower body... and drawing attention to a pretty face.

Hiding a Large Tummy

Unfortunately, I am extremely familiar with the tricks used for "hiding" a big stomach. I was born with an apple-shaped body and some of my medications cause additional weight gain in the midsection... as opposed to "all over" weight gain.

Oh, frakking lovely. How lucky for me.

Also, when we get older, we tend to add the pounds in our midsections… and this must be nature’s way of ensuring we will live through a potential famine, because we are neither young enough nor fast enough to chase down our next meal on the African savannah anymore.

Fortunately, we all have plenty of high fat, high carb meals waiting for us in our freezers; however nature hasn’t figured that out, yet.


read plus size clothing tips

Plus Size Tops: Prints can be Focal Points

How to Wear Prints and Patterns When You're Not Skinny

As I mentioned before, all prints are different. Every pattern needs to be viewed within the context of the total outfit. And, all dresses (and tops and pants) are cut a little differently. Even when you have two dresses that should be exactly the same... from the same manufacturer, they can look different when you put each one on.

This happens when there are several large focal points in a print.

read tips for wearing prints when you're plus sized

Floral Print Dresses Plus Size

If one of those focal points falls smack dab onto the middle of your belly, you might not want that as the focal point if you have an apple-shaped body. Alternately, if a focal point leads to the widest part of your hips, and you're trying to minimize your lower half, you should leave that dress for someone like me, who's trying to make her hips look bigger. (Yes, some women want that.)

So, sometimes you should try several versions of the same dress. That huge cabbage rose may hit you just right the second time.

Examples of Good Pattern Placement

The three plus-sized dresses in the image (above) show cute camouflaging prints that have good pattern placement for the model's body. Here are the focal points for each example:

  • The Black Dress with Rose Print: The eye lands on the pink rose in the middle, then the pink roses and the blue rose on her chest, then all the flowers on the left, and then the black background that runs up the center of the dress. The eye is always moving in an up and down pattern... making the model seem taller and thinner.
  • The Blue and White Floral Dress: The eye lands on one of the white roses, then checks out the other white roses. To me, this pattern makes a sexy, curvy "S" shape.
  • Off-the-Shoulder Floral Dress: The eye swoops around the white areas on the hips, then lands on the triangular white section just under the bust. (This white focal point is at the narrowest part of the model's body.) After that the eye travels around the print in a zigzagging movement... very sexy.

Well, that's how my eye "reads" those patterns. You may see them differently. If you're a guy, you'll only see her chest. "What flowers?"

read how to balance your body with prints & patterns

Prints & Patterns are Usually Focal Points

Some Prints Camouflage, Some Draw Attention

You can use different prints for drawing attention to an area, for camouflaging an area... sort of... when the eye keeps moving around looking for a place to rest... and for balancing your body.

Look at the photo with the numbers. All of those prints are attention grabbers, but if those prints were used on both the tops and bottoms of each outfit, they would act like camouflage... though some of those prints would overwhelm you. And, when part of the outfit is plain and part of it is patterned, the pattern usually becomes the focal point.

Here's how you could use the outfits above to visually balance your body:

  • Example 1 would be good for balancing big hips or butt.
  • Example 2 might be good for balancing broad shoulders and possibly camouflaging a tummy (depending on how the jacket sits).
  • Example 3 would be awful for a big tummy but might be slimming in general because the focal point is that little sliver of print.
  • Example 4 might be good camouflage for everyone (if the clothes are not too tight), because your eye jumps back and forth between the top and the skirt.
  • Example 5 is hard to tell... the print might act like the cammo used to cover the military tank. I think this type of outfit might be good for pear shapes, though I'd have to see it on.
  • Example 6 would be good for chicks with big tummies (apple-shaped bodies) because there's no waistband and your eye bounces around looking for a focal point. And, that is usually good for hiding a tummy.

There are so many factors that affect what type of print is good for you. High contrast graphics are good on many women, but for me, black and white prints make me look like a ghost. So, even though all the websites and magazines say that monochrome is hot... well, it's not hot on me.

read how to look good in prints

Clothing Tips for Wearing Prints

I guess the best thing I can tell you is my perspective. If a woman can find a way to hide a tummy in plain sight, I think anything can be accomplished with flowery (or tribal or whatever) cammo. So, don't be afraid to try some of the new prints that are out there. The runways all over the world are covered in prints... not that THAT should be of primary importance to women like us who are older and wiser.

Hey, if I can hide my belly and make myself look taller (or nebulous and floaty) with prints, you can certainly hide your butt and make your flabby arms seem positively girlish.

What to Look for With Prints

Remember these tips:

  • The point where a print meets a solid will become a focal point. And, if there is high contrast (like black and white or red and green), the place where the contrast is most obvious will become a focal point. Make sure those focal points draw attention to your best assets (small waist, gorgeous boobs, sexy booty, etc.).
  • The best way to do this is probably to take a photo. Of course, a lot depends on the background of the place where you are taking your photo (and the place where you will be wearing your outfit). A white coat will look different next to a navy blue background than next to a snowbank. You have to look at things in context.

I Like Prints With Dark Backgrounds

I usually prefer prints with a dark background. Sure, I have other types of prints in my closet, but whenever I see a pattern with a festival of colorful folkloric flowers on a black background, it stirs some kind of primal memory in me. And... I know that the dress or tunic is just like the things my ancestors created... and it will look good on me.

If you're of European ancestry, you may feel the same way, but whoever you are... all you have to do is keep trying on different types of prints. And, when you find that special combination that makes your heart sing... you'd better buy several of whatever it is... because you'll want to wear that printed outfit every day until it falls apart.

More Articles You Might Like:

Knit Jersey Dresses: Travel Wear for Women Over 40 or 50

Boho Chic Hippie Clothes - Plus Size Maxi Dresses

Different Types of Tribal Print & Pattern Trends

Can Plus Size Women Wear Prints? 5 Tips for Plus Size Chicks

Wedding Dresses for Older Brides: Women Over 40

read tips about how to balance your perfectly flawless body with prints & patterns. hugs, tina boomerina

Main Photo: Prints & Patterns Tips

Photo Credits: All photos are from Prshots.com

  • Main Photo: Fifty Plus, Monsoon, Phase Eight, House of  Fraser. (If too small to see on your phone, go to the Tina Boomerina Pinterest page.)
  • Prints to Look Skinny: House of  Fraser.
  • Printed Dresses With Dark Backgrounds: JD Williams, formerly Fifty Plus.
  • Plus Size Tops: Every Pattern is Different: JD Williams, in the US try Marisota or Simply Be.
  • Prints Can Camouflage or Draw Attention: Pilot, Accessorize.
  • Plus Size Tops: Prints Can be Focal Points: Daxon.
  • Floral Print Dresses Plus Size: Paper Dolls, Pink Clove, Asos Curve.
  • Prints & Patterns are Usually Focal Points: House of  Fraser.
  • Clothing Tips for Wearing Prints: Yumi.

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page if you like this article or if you think I'm off my rocker. Either way, I love hearing from you. The comment won't post until I approve it.

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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  1. Ruth Dunnuck

    Finally, a site that is relative for this 62 year old, "little ole Lady"! THANK YOU.

    • Tina


      I'm glad you like our site. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence. And, for all of you youngsters, 62 is NOT old. We are joking. We're just like you... with more wrinkles.


      Tina Boomerina

  2. Kat

    Love both your fashion style and your writing style. After edging into the short, plump sizes last summer, I decided that I'd had enough and lost 30 pounds ( ok 25 now; gained 5 back this spring). I could stand to lose another 25, but am much happier with myself now. I just discovered your site and have been reading some of your older posts--on wearing leggings and so forth. Thanks so much for your insight -- you really understand the issues!

  3. Tina-Boomerina

    Hi, if you want to know where one of the old photos (on Pinterest) is from, just leave a comment and describe the item. I will PROBABLY remember the company.

  4. Tina-Boomerina

    ps I just did a massive rewrite of this article because I used different photos. If any part of it drifts off into space... just become a space cowgirl and try to figure it out. I'm too tired to do an edit right now.

    Tina Boomerina

  5. Judith

    I have the belly problem too and have recently revived my love for boho. Thanks for the info.

    • Tina-Boomerina


      I think everyone gets the belly thing as they age, but I had it at age 20 (when I weighed about 12 pounds), so I KNOW that boho is the way to goho.

      Layering with lightweight layers is the best idea on earth. If you like hippie stuff look for things similar to the maxi dresses by Rachel Pally and tunics by Johnny Was. Then, look around for cheaper versions or lightly worn clothes on eBay. Well, if you're a trust fund kid, you can buy the real deal.